Edward Dmytryk | 63 mins | download | 4:3 | USA / English | PG*
Directed by Edward Dmytryk (who, a couple of years later, would helm Farewell My Lovely/Murder, My Sweet, which was previously filmed as The Falcon Takes Over — connections, connections), the first film to feature solely Tom Conway as the Falcon is probably the series’ weakest effort to date.
The story trundles along for much of the film, at best a typical runaround, at worst an unengaging tale of stolen war bonds and memory loss. (I say “memory loss” — the Falcon was supposedly unconscious, meaning he didn’t have the memories in the first place to lose. But that’s beside the point.) I was getting a bit fed up with it, but the final act manages to introduce some atmosphere and incident, in the process explaining some of the earlier, apparently aimless, story choices.
With the Falcon series, the makers seem to be making a concerted effort with plots — whereas the Saint films were largely quite straightforward, often only having one possible character to reveal as the villain, the Falcon films are largely genuine whodunits. Strikes Back has a particularly knotty denouement. It doesn’t necessarily make them better — indeed, on the whole, the Saint films are more entertaining — but it gives them something.
Conway makes a solid replacement for George Sanders, because he’s effectively more of the same. Aside from an opening that implies the new New Yorker is uncomfortable with the city’s constant noise, there’s no reference to him being new in town last time round — indeed, the plot fairly hinges on the fact he previously put someone away in the area. His eye for the ladies remains the same, although Conway feels a bit slicker and less whipped. Neither carry the same charisma as Sanders’ Saint.
Jane Randolph is back as Marcia Brooks, but the women largely play a toned down part this time round, perhaps because there’s at least four of them. Goldie’s back, this time played by Cliff Edwards, who is certainly no Allen Jenkins. Whereas Jenkins made for an amiable sidekick, Edwards is actually quite irritating. (Though this is his last appearance for now, the character returns later in the series, played by Edward S. Brophy and Vince Barnett.) The policemen perform their usual shtick, which gets a little more desperate and less funny with each film. At least there’s only one round of the “because I’m the boss” gag this time. The Falcon’s ethnically-variable butler Jerry is still Asian, albeit recast with Richard Loo, and gets a more substantial supporting role, once again in one of the film’s better segments.
Strikes Back recovers towards the end for a decent final act, but it’s a relative slog to get to that point. All in, while not outright bad, I’d say it’s the least entertaining of the Falcon films thus far.